The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 4: The Game Changer by Robert W. Walker

(Kris says: Rob is one of the guests I have asked to weigh in on this subject. The second half of his article will be posted on Thursday. Enjoy!)

Here is the deal – I am now writing my next book as a Kindle Original novel, for eBook publication, eschewing traditional publishing for this, my 50th novel.

No one could convince me that any contract short of a film deal would set me back on a traditional path. Think about that conclusion: a 100,000 word novel that I pitch as, “If Michael Crichton had rewritten the Titanic story, you would have Curse of the Titanic!” is going straight to the reader via Kindle.

Do you get that? I am not going to waste months, even years, trying to convince anyone of the quality and the commercial potential of this manuscript. I am not sending it to three publishers or three agents or twenty-five agents in an effort to find someone who sees the potential that I see in my novel.

I took that path for some 30 years with my life’s work—Children of Salem (now a Kindle Original and Robert Walker Publishing’s #1 Bestseller). My heavily researched Salem book, a Hystery-Mystery-Romance hybrid, was turned down by every agent who read the pitch and sample chapters, and it was turned down by every publishing house in NYC—despite my record of having sold some forty novels.

I am not going to put myself through that again with Curse of the Titanic. Instead, once the manuscript has been edited and vetted to my satisfaction, Curse of the Titanic will see virtual print the next day as my fifth Kindle Original title. Today, all of my out-of-print titles are also on Kindle, which has given them a very literal life after death.

In all, I have 44 titles on Kindle. Unfortunately, three are controlled and price-set by HarperCollins, who insists on selling these titles at the SAME price as the paperback originals. As a result these three terrific novels in eBook form are just not selling at all, while those I am free to price-set myself are selling so fast that I cannot keep up with the sales.

But in point of fact, I can keep up. I can check my Kindle sales any time as easily as checking stock market scores. I know minute by minute what is happening with each title except those published by HarperCollins; I actually had NO idea how badly the sales for those three titles were until I got a royalty statement six months after the fact. (At the $7.00 price tag, none sold.)

By comparison, I get a clear, understandable, daily accounting of my $1.99 and $2.99 Kindle titles, that tells me I am making $500 to $600 per month on these eBooks.

This new, ground-breaking, game-changing, dynamic business model, which pleases readers and authors alike, has displeased major traditional publishers who still think that high price is the way to great returns. The only returns they are generating are returned books.

Major publishers have gone to “war” with Amazon over the pricing of eBooks. Macmillan and others want to set eBook prices higher than Amazon’s promised $9.99 or below. As one author caught in this “war,” I have both eBooks controlled by my publisher (HarperCollins) which are NOT generating sales, and titles that I have placed on Kindle which ARE.

As a result, I have written a number of new books specifically meant as Kindle Original titles, as I believe strongly in this avenue for good reason—more money going into my pocket.

To be continued…


Award-winning author ROBERT W. WALKER created his highly acclaimed INSTINCT and EDGE SERIES between 1982 and 2005, and more recently the award-winning historical series featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom: CITY FOR RANSOM (2006), SHADOWS IN THE WHITE CITY (2007), and CITY OF THE ABSENT (2008).  This history-mystery hybrid has generated enthusiastic reviews: “the witticism of Mark Twain, the social consciousness of Dickens, and the ghoulish atmosphere of Poe!”

Rob’s current work in progress is CURSE of the TITANIC, another theory of why Captain Edward Smith sank the Titanic – with a plague-spreading monster on board. Rob’s next historical suspense is CHILDREN of SALEM, an historical romance and suspense novel. One professional editor remarked:  “Only Robert Walker could make this work—romance amid the infamous witch trials.”


10 Responses to “The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 4: The Game Changer by Robert W. Walker”

  1. 1 Morgan Mandel 05/24/2010 at 3:48 PM

    That is a very great incentive for publishinig on kindle – more money going into my own pocket.

    I despise the archaic returns system. Bookstores won’t let you do a book signing unless your book can be returned. They over order and then the book gets returned. When you self-publish, then you have to pay for the returns plus $2 more if you want the book back. At that point, I figure $2 is worth it so I can resell the book.

    So, next time I will publish electronically first, then if I do self-publish, I won’t accept returns and don’t care if I miss getting book signings at book stores. Most of the sales come from other events anyway.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. 2 kristualla 05/24/2010 at 9:10 PM

    You make a good point about the returns! I have set up some book signings at NON-bookstore locales, and bring my OWN p.o.d copies which I can sell for LESS than either the bookstores or Amazon!

    It works out pretty well.
    Kris 🙂

  3. 3 Jacqueline Seewald 05/26/2010 at 4:40 AM


    You are unique crusader and you are getting out the word loud and clear. I haven’t placed anything on Kindle as yet, but I will because the things you say make excellent sense. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments.

  4. 5 Pauline Baird Jones 05/26/2010 at 12:35 PM

    You have mentioned the word I love to hate: returns! I hate them so much, I ASKED my small press publisher to make my latest release NOT returnable. (Now we’re moving toward making none of them returnable.) I’m also re-releasing my back list ONLY in digital. It’s not that I’m against print sales, but my books tend to sell better in digital (case in point GIRL GONE NOVA is currently in top ten at fictionwise today.)

    Bookstores are my worst venue, since I make less per book, and I can’t compete with known names/price of my print book.

    And did I mention I HATE returns?

  5. 8 Frankie Robertson 05/26/2010 at 2:26 PM

    Robert, thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with us.
    It’s a truism that non-fiction does better in the self/indie publishing arena so your experience publishing fiction with Kindle is especially valuable.

    You had presence in the market before you started pubbing with Kindle. How well do you think someone with far less published will do (assuming the book is great and well edited, and the author is making an effort at promotion with social media)? Or perhaps a better question would be: What kind of a career arc could a newbie expect over the course of pubbing four or five books with Kindle (or Smashwords)?

    Can any readers report on their experience with this?

  6. 9 Rob Walker 05/26/2010 at 10:08 PM

    Joe Konrath’s free ebook unless he is charging now…The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing is also title for his blog….you should all check in with what Joe is up to. He is the Pied Piper for midlist and established authors who are sick and tired of returns and remainders and unreadable royalties that require you to send in a lawyer….and low pay outs. So do check with Joe for some of the answers you seek.
    Truly if your book is not riddled with eiditng errors or html conversion errors, and you have vetted and edited it, and it has a great title, a great descript, good cover art, no kindle reader I know would not be attracted by it.
    Check out Joe’s cover art and mine. We had pros to do ours; my son does mine and he is excellent; others use Patty Henderson.
    Also check out my Journal chronicling the writing of Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic @

    Thanks for your kind remarks here one and all; will keep checking back.
    free first twenty pgs. of Children of Salem at

  7. 10 kristualla 05/26/2010 at 11:22 PM

    Frankie – I have asked Joe Konrath to blog about this very topic. His first release was in 2004 and he is burning up the sales charts.

    I think that fiction is about to explode on indie-pub. But that’s just my opinion. What do I know. 😉

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